CHICAGO (CBS) — The head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has resigned, in the wake of an agency report acknowledging missteps leading up to the death of a 2-year-old girl in Joliet Township.
The Rauner administration confirmed DCFS Director George Sheldon has resigned. Sheldon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris is concerned about the revolving door of DCFS directors, nince in the pat six years.
“It affects morale,” he said. “I think it’s fixable. I mean it has to be.”
Sheldon’s resignation comes less than a week after the state’s child welfare agency released a report conceding missteps in its contact with the family of 2-year-old Semaj Crosby, who was found dead in her Joliet Township home last month, less than two days after she was reported missing on April 25.
Her body was found underneath a couch, and an autopsy proved inconclusive.
Within days of Semaj’s death, Sheldon defended DCFS caseworkers who had visited the toddler’s home a few hours before she disappeared, but did not find reason to remove her or her siblings from the home, even though local officials had described the conditions inside the home as deplorable.
“An untidy or dirty home doesn’t mean we remove the child, because the child may be loved and cared for – but they may be poor,” Sheldon said at the time.
Sheldon said filth alone is not enough to remove children.
“Based on what I have seen – and I’ve seen some of the records and read a significant amount of them — none of the instances in that home warranted removal,” he said.
DCFS released a 26-page report on Semaj’s death on Friday. One of the topics in the report: what’s referred to as the “cognitive limitations” of Semaj’s mother. These limitations were never addressed by DCFS caseworkers, the report says.
Once, the report says, Semaj’s mother told a caseworker she only had two sons and that the youngest two children, including Semaj, were the children of another woman in the home — in reality, Semaj’s aunt.
On another visit, a caseworker reports seeing Semaj’s mother sweeping “debris from the floor into a corner of the house.”
Also, according to the report, three adults living in the home had been named previously as “alleged perpetrators in child protection investigations.”
The report makes several mentions of one of Semaj’s siblings: a 7-year-old with suicidal tendencies.
Semaj’s mother reportedly refused to take him to the hospital or refill his psychotropic medication.
DCFS concludes in the report that caseworkers did not make an effort to adequately address problems.
The home where Semaj was condemned after the girl’s death; authorities said conditions were squalid. The vacant house burned to the ground May 6.